I became a mom almost 13 months ago, and so many changes came with it. The obvious struggles of newborn life were there, but also there was something else. The joy that accompanied my newborn into the world was given a shadow. An intense fear that I was going to lose all that I’d been given, that others had suffered great loss and how could I be more deserving of joy than them pervaded my thoughts. Postpartum anxiety caused me to think about all the worst things that could happen and tried to steal my joy of finally having a healthy, happy little boy.
I took some time off work, which definitely helped, and I also noticed a big difference when I stopped nursing, but the anxiety still likes to poke its head up every once in a while to remind me that it’s here. If I let myself, I can spiral quickly into a gray land of shadows and gloom.
So, when I read this poem a few weeks ago, I almost ran out and got it tattooed on my forehead. Backwards, so I could read it as I got ready every morning. It’s a poem by Wendell Berry, called The Peace of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the
great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Eff you, fear and anxiety. You and the horse you rode in on. You’re not welcome here. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. And I still might get it tattooed somewhere.